THERE WERE MANY UNSUNG HEROES AMONG THE 13TH COMBAT ENGINEERS AND IT IS FITTING THAT THEIR DEEDS BE MADE KNOWN ON THESE PAGES AND THAT THEY RECIEVE OUR BELATED THANKS!
Thanks! To MAURICE REEVES, The Following Excerpts
Are From His Articles Published In The 13TH Engineer
And 7TH ID. Association Newsletters.
Once the battle of Midway had been decided in June 1942 Japanese plans turned
to Alaska. The Japanese needing a base in the Aleutians for a possible invasion of
the U.S., occupied the islands of Attu and Kiska during that month. In May 1943,
the Allies plan was to recover Attu, the furthest island in the Aleutian chain,
isolating the Japanese troops on Kiska, the next American target.
There was little that seemed to go as planned for the Attu campaign. The landing
of the assault troops came off days late because of bad weather and high seas.
The troops were ill - equipped to do the job. The winter clothing/gear was not
adequate for the cold wet Aleutians.
The following report concerning the task of the Engineers is by
CLARENCE ZARN Platoon Leader B Company 13th Engineer
Battalion. ZARN later was Company Commander of C
Company during the Leyte and Okinawa campaigns. BASIL
AHERN, Platoon Sgt. also contributed some informtion.
We landed in the first wave with the Northern Landing Force on Red Beach,
North Arm of Holz Bay to clear any mines, if found and facilitate a supply road
as the troops moved inland. Our landing initially was undetected. The beach was
secured and supplies and equipment were unloaded by the navy. Two major
obstacles developed, one was the Aleutian tundra, which was a problem for all
units as the campaign developed. The other problem called for an immediate
answer. There was a high bluff rising 150 feet above the landing beach some
300-400 yards from the shoreline. The bluff dropped downward vertically about
10 feet and then sloped toward the shoreline on an angle of one vertical to one
and a half horizontal. The Engineers mission: Get the Infantry, weapons,
ammunition and supplies to the top of that bluff and be prepared to assist the
medics in returning casualties to the beach area and then on to the Navy hospital
The Engineers first cut a makeshift stairway along the face of the bluff, with
everything going up or down that stairway trail. This lasted one day. The platoon
fostered a plan to get their mission underway with the help of the navy. Someone
remembered seeing a large coil of 7/8' cable aboard one of the ships. This was
secured from the navy together with a large diameter sheave (like a pulley). The
intent was to construct a "deadman" on top of the bluff. The Engineers scouted
the beach for flotsam and by a miracle (we believe) a tree trunk about 15 feet
long and 2 feet in diameter at the small end was found. Some say it was the only
tree on Attu! The plan was to bury the "deadman" (tree trunk) about eight feet
deep, fasten the large sheave above ground to the tree trunk, then thread the
1,000 foot cable thru the sheave on the bluff surface so that the cable was divided
equally and extended down the bluff to a improvised "elevator".
To put the "elevator" into service a bulldozer was fastened to one end of the
cable and an improvised sled to be loaded with ammunition, artillery weapons,
food, etc. was attached to the other end of the cable. As the dozer moved
shoreward away from the bluff, the sled was pulled to the top. These supplies
and weapons would then be unloaded and moved forward to the troops by hand
carry or weasel units pulling sled pallets. By alternate action the sleds were pulled
up and down the slope , bringing casualties on the way down. The simple idea
expedited the action on Attu and bought time until a road could be constructed up
the side of the bluff.
It was not until May 27, 1943 that the Hourglass units appeared to have control
of the island. But the Japanese Commander Col. Yamasaki was not through. Two
days later the ennemy, in a desperate, final charge launched a full scaled attack
towards Clevesy Pass in an attempt to drive to Massacre Valley. It would have no
chance for success except for an order received by B Co. 32nd Infantry Regt.
ordering them to report to the regimental kitchen. No one knows how this order
came to be sent to B Company nor is there any record.
They were finally STOPPED at ENGINEER HILL as MAJOR GEORGE
COOKSON EX. OFFICER 13TH ENGINEER BN. Took Comand of an
assortment of Medics, Artillery Men and Engineers. (With LT. ROBERT
McARTHUR'S A Company 13TH ENGINEERS Who had prepared an
emergency plan for his Company.) As the ennemy advanced the troops fell back
slowly taking advantage of the high ground. This defensive action gradually
forced the attackers back toward Clevesy Pass where they were mopped up. By
May 30 organized resistance had collapsed. The men of the 13TH ENGINEERs
are PROUD of their accomplishments in WWI,WWII, KOREA and PANAMA.